Inbox: Possible for Druw Jones to fall in Draft?

June 24th, 2022

As we come close to turning the calendar to July, the 2022 Draft is finally in our sights. So this week’s Inbox focuses more on the Draft, with two questions about high school talent. But I didn’t want to completely ignore the Minor League guys. File the last question under the “squeaky wheel gets the oil” category.

If the Mets were able to get Druw Jones to fall to them by promising him $10 million signing bonus (drafting seniors for remaining slots) ... Would this be able to happen and why hasn’t anyone done something like this yet? -- @ballsandgutters

We discussed this in pretty good detail on this week’s Pipeline Podcast, so be sure to give it a listen (and subscribe). I wanted to answer this question not only to address the specific example given, but also to talk about the general concept of a player being able to determine where he goes and what team takes him.

Let’s start with the second part. There is a general sense, at least based on what we see from fans on social media, that this kind of scenario is possible. And, generally speaking, it’s not. Jim Callis coined the perfect phrase (trademark pending): prisoner of their own talent. If a player is THAT talented, he is very limited in terms of where he can drive himself to in the Draft. Even if there is a desire to get to a certain team, chances are one of the teams picking earlier is going to roll the dice.

On the podcast, the best example I came up with previously was when Jay Groome was considered one of the best talents in the 2016 Draft. In fact, we had him at No. 1 on our Top 200 that year. Now, there were several things that kept him from being considered at the very top of the Draft, but he certainly belonged in top 10 conversations. As we later learned, as he dropped down, there was an effort made by the Groome “team” to get him to the bottom of the round. The Red Sox, picking No. 12 and without a huge bonus pool, decided to take the talent anyway. Groome didn’t have a ton of leverage and ended up signing for $3.65 million, a little less than $500k over slot.

Jones’ case is different and even more limited. He could certainly put out a $10 million price tag in the hopes of getting to the Mets at No. 11 (Note: There has been NO talk of this happening.), but there is virtually zero chance of every team in the top 10 passing on him. Even if the Orioles decide they don’t want to meet his asking price at No. 1, the D-backs could take him at No. 2 and offer him full slot, just north of $8.1 million. Is he really going to say no to that and go to Vanderbilt in the hopes of a slightly larger payday as the No. 1 pick in three years? I say no.

Even the Rangers and their $7.59 million slot at No. 3 would very likely not hesitate to take Jones if somehow Arizona passed, and the general buzz has been Texas would happily entertain this option. In other words, if Jones wanted to play that game, someone would call his bluff.

Thoughts on Nazier Mule getting drafted in the first two rounds? #MLBdraft -- @Moose994

Bonus points are given for using the hashtag. Mule, currently No. 93 on our Top 200 Draft list, is a very intriguing prospect, one who has made a good amount of noise by throwing really hard. The New Jersey prep standout touched triple digits on the showcase circuit last summer, but was more thrower than pitcher, with a bit of a reliever vibe. Early this spring, he did show off a better feel for pitching and improved command, dialing the fastball down a bit (still up to 96 mph) with a potentially plus slider and even some feel for a changeup.

Mule does have some upside as a position player, an infielder with a lot of raw power that he’s tapped into at times. If he does head to Miami for college, he could get the chance to play both ways. That’s where things get interesting. Mule hasn't pitched since much earlier in the spring, shutting things down on the mound and focusing on hitting, which only added to the belief that he wants to hit at the next level. The issue there is that teams are much more interested in his pitching talents than his offensive ones. Could a team take him in the top two rounds and let him begin his career as a position player? It's possible, especially if there's an open conversation about how if that doesn't work they'll want to put him on the mound. And there are teams who are willing to let players tinker, at least at the outset, with pitching and hitting simultaneously. The fact he is just 17 will certainly work in his favor in terms of teams’ Draft models, but some creative thinking might be needed to take him in the top two rounds.

How much more does Jordan Westburg have to do to be in the Top 100? -- @thirtyyhours

I would very much like to build an algorithm that measures how much more aggressive fans get the better their favorite team’s farm system gets. Don't get me wrong, I love the passion, but there is no doubt the rhetoric from Orioles fans is reaching fever pitch status. These days, Jordan Westburg is front and center on Twitter more often than anybody else.

And I get it -- the infielder is very talented. It's why we had him ranked No. 6 on the Orioles’ very deep Top 30 at the start of the season. The No. 30 overall pick in the 2020 Draft has an exciting combination of size, athleticism, power and speed. And he’s shown off those tools as a pro, hitting 15 homers and swiping 17 bases while reaching Double-A in his first full season in 2021. He already has 14 homers this year between Double-A and Triple-A in just 60 games.

But I’m going to ask people to pump the brakes just a little here. Yes, I think Westburg has a good chance to be a very good big leaguer, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised soon, I think, in a sneak preview of future additions due to graduations. But I do want to point out that the recent frenzy about Westburg has come based on how well he’s hit since getting bumped to Triple-A. His .368/.400/.790 line is indeed impressive, but no one seems to note it’s been over just 13 games and 60 at-bats. Or that he had a more pedestrian .817 OPS in Double-A prior to his promotion.

Again, we’re with you. Westburg is good. But a little perspective is needed. The clamor to add a player based on such a small sample (some have claimed we’re “sleeping on him”) is a bit much, no? Adley Rutschman was hitting .137 after his first 13 games in the big leagues, with a .424 OPS. Should we have jettisoned him from the top of the Top 100 or the O’s list based on that? Or how about his .233/.377/.442 in 12 Triple-A games before his call up? Does that sound like a No. 1 prospect to you?